Reading FC Match Report: 2021/2022 Season - Championship
READING 2 DERBY 2
Reading: J Hoilett (37), J Hoilett (56)
Derby: C Kazim-Richards (86), C Davies (90)
Reading dropped two valuable points against fellow strugglers Derby County, conceding two goals in the final minutes in a game they clearly should have won. County fans will argue with some justification they deserved their point for showing such resilience and persistence after falling behind to a brace of Junior Hoilett scored goals either side of half time. In truth they were given a helping hand by a feeble second half performance from a Reading side who retreated in to their own penalty area inviting a deluge of Derby pressure.
Four minutes from full time Southwood completely missed a routine catch from a ball floated in to the far post by Bird leaving Kazim-Richards to gratefully nudge the ball over the line to reduce the deficit. With Reading looking decidedly vulnerable, Byrne’s cross from the same wing was thumped Curtis Davies past Southwood with a perfectly timed and directed header to complete the visitors comeback. Fortunately for Reading there was insufficient time remaining for a third Derby goal which surely would have come such was County’s dominance.
Reading started on the front foot and, with Carrol the focal point of their attack and Hoilett looking sharp once he had shaken off the initial understandable rustiness, Reading carried much more of a threat than County going forward for all their neat possession football. Reading came close to taking the lead when a delightful cross from Swift was headed downwards producing a very good save from Allsop. Derby gradually took control of midfield spreading the play wide and making good use of the copious amount of time and space afforded by Reading. Reading were careless in possession and looked clueless from throw-ins. In spite of County’s territorial superiority Reading took the lead eight minutes before half time. A long ball was won by Carroll, the ball bounced fortuitously off Hoilett’s backside into his path, and showing immense composure a skill Hoilett moved into a more central position and curled a magnificent strike past Allsop from outside the box.
Ashcroft had a good first half preventing County from delivering crosses from the left wing, and when injury prevented him from returning after half time, his replacement Araruna, looked like a fish out of water in comparison. Ironically although County exposed this weakness alarmingly, their two goals came from the other wing. The most reliable option to me seemed to be to drop Laurent in to centre back, push Holmes out to right back, and leave Araruna to play a more suited attacking role on the right. In the end it did not matter as everyone in a Reading shirt was camped in and around their own penalty area for most of the second half anyway.
Reading increased their lead shortly after half time when Hoilett snapped up a close range half chance at the near post after Holmes headed back a cross to the far post from Halalovic’s free kick. That was the cue for Reading to unwisely sit back and protect their lead. As the half progressed there was an inevitability about Derby breaching the Reading defence. Poor decision-making, partly due to an overwhelming lack of confidence and self-belief, prevented Reading from playing their way out of their own half inviting incessant pressure. What was surprising was the source of the crucial breakthrough. Of all people the usually reliable Luke Southwood’s error handed County a lifeline which the visitors grasped with both hands. Davies completed the revival with his fine header. Derby deserved their point and Reading certainly got what they deserved.
Paunovic will come in for some strong criticism after this performance mainly because it had an all too familiar look about it. Tactically his team were poor in the second half, and if as he claimed, some players (notably Swift) were not match fit, he had players on the bench to replace them. Probably not as skillful but at least with a bit more energy. There is no room for excuses. Reading need to start winning games.
This Championship game took place 16 days ago in the 2021/2022 season.